The director of a so-called internet security firm has been handed a suspended jail sentence for a cyber scam that saw him pose as Microsoft employees to sell unnecessary IT services.
Narendra Harilal Vadgama, 56, of Babington Road, Barrow upon Soar, pleaded guilty to four charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Vadgama traded under the name Internet Security Direct Limited, but often posed as an employee from tech companies including Microsoft when cold-calling victims, claiming their computers had been infected.
The company would charge its victims often as much as £500 for unnecessary security services, and in some cases convinced victims to allow remote access. He then locked the computers before refusing to unlock them until the victims had paid.
Vadgama was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, which was reduced to nine months following a guilty plea. He was also banned from acting as a company director for seven months and handed a curfew for six months.
Sentencing Vadgama, Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said: "All those who use computers are concerned with internet safety. You saw a business opportunity.
Some of the victims are people who are nervous and lack knowledge that you plainly obtained.
"They are vulnerable to be scammed like they were by people operating for you. You simply didn't care what was happening."
Internet Security Direct Limited was dissolved in November.
Hugh Milward, head of legal at Microsoft UK, said the vendor will never cold-call its users, adding that relationships between vendors and the authorities are crucial when bringing down cyber criminals.
"Unfortunately the names of reputable companies such as Microsoft are often used fraudulently to lull victims into a false sense of security," he added.
"Our customers are often targeted by criminals who are always seeking new and increasingly sophisticated ways to deceive their victims and we work closely with law enforcement to tackle these scams and protect our customers.
"Identifying the people behind these crimes can be difficult, which is why this kind of co-operative, cross-sector collaboration is exactly what is needed to combat cyber criminals who often operate on a global scale."
Microsoft has been in a partnership with City of London Police for a number of years, in an attempt to crack down on these sorts of crimes.
Last year a two-year investigation saw four people arrested on suspicion of software fraud.
On Vadgama's sentencing, City of London Police Commander Dave Clark said: "This case demonstrates precisely why public-private partnership is critical to tackling modern-day fraud operating at global scale.
"The combined effort, skills and expertise of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, UK policing, Microsoft and the Crown Prosecution Service led to the early identification and disruption of Vadgama's criminal enterprise which was targeting the most vulnerable people in our society.
"Partnerships like this are increasingly being used and should send a warning to criminals that the UK is increasingly becoming a hostile environment in which to commit fraud."
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